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The Kingdom of God part 10


PLAN OF THE AGES KINGDOM OF GOD PRAISE & WORSHIP HISTORY MISCELLANEOUS


THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 Part 10

THE NATURE OF THE KINGDOM 

            Speculation about, or inquiry into, the future are favorite pass-times of both saints and sinners.  Among Christians it often takes the form of a fascination with, and search for, the “signs of the times” signs of the approach of the end of the age or the dawn of the Millennium.  These signs are often of a political, social, or judgmental kind events in the State of Israel, the struggle between the so-called Christian nations and world Communism, New Age religion, the New World Order, conspiracy theories, natural disasters, and the decay of public morals in Western society.  Popular books which claim to recognize and to interpret the signs,  to identify the Antichrist, or to unveil the date of Christ’s second coming, sell in great numbers today.  Other people become excited with each passing comet, or every natural disaster, seeing in each some mystical omen portending the imminence of the “rapture”, the beginning of the Great Tribulation, the end of the world, or something else. 

            The church world is literally filled with SIGN-WATCHERS, though I dare say most of them have missed the meaning of the signs altogether, for they read with the carnal mind, having the understanding darkened.  We can be so taken up with the natural signs of wars and rumors of wars, violence, political intrigues, of earthquakes and disasters, until we totally miss the real thing that is happening in the realm of SPIRIT, or hearing His voice within, that He might bring us into complete union with Himself, that we might BECOME His salvation unto the ends of the earth.  We watch the evening news, and suppose that we are watching for His coming.  We hear of the storms, the floods, drought, crime, wars, AIDS, the rise and fall of governments, and our perspective becomes distorted, and fear and doubt seize hold of our souls, until we become more conscious of the darkness of “this world,” than we are of the light and glory and triumph of the INDWELLING CHRIST.  Any time we are troubled by, or anxious about, the things coming to pass upon the earth, it is obvious that we are WATCHING THE REALM OF DARKNESS rather than LOOKING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD; we are of those who “dwell upon the earth” instead of those “raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places.”  The Kingdom of God can only be discerned by the spirit it does not come by such outward observations! 

            “And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:20-21).  These words are illuminating indeed.  First, our Lord was answering what was in the hearts of those Pharisees who put the question to Him.  The doctrine of the rabbis was that the Kingdom of God would come with the accompaniment of great signs and outward displays of divine power, whereby the enemies of Israel would be miraculously overwhelmed, and they themselves be swept triumphantly into, and securely established in, the coveted place of world supremacy.  I would be remiss should I fail to point out that modern day dispensationalism is practically identical with first century rabbinism!  What the Pharisees were expecting two millenniums ago is precisely what most Fundamentalist, Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians are expecting today.  Only Jesus has a different idea! 

            Jesus corrected their error by saying that the Kingdom of God comes not with ocular evidence, which is the literal meaning of the word rendered “observation”.  It does not come with outward show that can be seen with the eye.  In other words, it was not the sort of Kingdom they were expecting.  There would be nothing of such a startling or sensational character in outward cataclysmic and apocalyptic events that would cause the spectator to say, “Look here!  Look yonder!  The Kingdom of God is coming!  There is the Kingdom!”  Then He utters an impressive word “for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” 

            Have you ever noticed how things you’ve eagerly anticipated, yearned for, even determinedly pursued, often seem to fall short of your expectations?  And how rich and meaningful those unexpected moments of happiness can be an especially beautiful sunset that occurs during your drive home from work or the smile of a child  you pass on the street?  The difference isn’t in the experiences so much as it is within us.  That is what happens when we discover the truth of the words Jesus spoke that the Kingdom of God is not what we have expected and yearned for, it isn’t up in the sky or “out there” to be found in some situation, circumstance, person, location, time, event or possession.  The Kingdom isn’t the “Millennium”, or some particular “church” or “movement”, or a date on the calendar, or Jesus reigning over in Jerusalem it does not come by observation and it can never be said of it that it is either “here” or “there”.  The righteousness, peace and joy we experience in the Kingdom stem from our relationship with God, whenever or wherever we are.  But these realities are apt to be overlooked if one is seeking for the Kingdom in external things, events and time periods.  Could there be any more glorious truth than this the Kingdom of God is within you! 

            Let us look again at the words of Jesus in Luke 17:20-21.  “And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  The word “demand” in English is a strong word.  It’s not a request, it’s not a petition, it’s not an inquiry.  It means to ask for urgently and with authority requiring a response.  The Pharisees were demanding of Jesus when the Kingdom of God should come.  Man is always concerned about the time of things.  In America, especially, we are extremely time conscious.  We want to know when right to the minute.  The Pharisees were of this same spirit.  They weren’t asking what the Kingdom is, or how it comes, or what they could do to prepare for it.  They wanted to know when it would come.   

            They were not unlike some in our generation who have searched out “dates” and made predictions about the time of the Lord’s coming, the end of the age, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the manifestation of the sons of God.  The date on the calendar when these events are supposed to happen is of  supreme importance to carnal minds.  It is interesting to note that Jesus did not answer the Pharisee’s question.  And, may I add, neither does He dignify men’s carnal date-setting by doing anything on that particular day or hour.  His silence is deafening!  Jesus told the Pharisees how the Kingdom does not come.  He didn’t tell them when.  He said they should not be asking about its sequence in time or its visible manifestation.  They should not be looking for it externally.  He didn’t say a word about when.  He told them where it already was “behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  He told them it doesn’t come by observation, with outward show.  You can’t see it coming.  But He didn’t tell them when.  Why didn’t He tell them when?  Because the Kingdom is not something external it exists in the realm of the spirit.  The Kingdom is always “at hand,” available, accessible, and its coming is relative to your consciousness of it and relation to it.  In spirit there is no time.  In spirit there is no physical location.  There is no geographical point of reference in spirit.   

            The Day of the Lord is not a date on the calendar.  It doesn’t begin one day and end another.  It’s not a twenty-four hour day, neither is it a thousand year day.  The Day of the Lord IS.  “God IS LIGHT, and in Him there is no darkness.”  That is the Day of the Lord.  It is the illumination of the light of God.  The Day of the Lord is a condition that takes place within a people.  It is the light, the understanding that begins to dawn in our consciousness that elevates our awareness of God and the dimension of spirit.  It is the understanding of the Almighty.  It is the revelation of God’s glory, majesty, will and purpose.  In Genesis God called the light “day” and Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).  Then He said, “Ye are the light of the world” (Mat. 5:14).  And the apostle Paul by revelation added, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.  Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (I Thes. 5:4-5).  What is happening is that understanding is coming to us.  Understanding is light.  Paul prayed for the Ephesian saints that “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18).  We’re getting understanding.  We’re understanding God.  We’re understanding His Spirit, His ways, His truth, His plan, His purpose, His heart so the Day of the Lord is dawning in us.   The Day Star is arising in our hearts and the shadows and darkness are fleeing away in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.   Just as day and night co-exist on earth side by side, so the Day of the Lord and the gross darkness that covers  the people co-exist side by side.  Just as Americans walk in the brightness of the noon-day sun at the same time that Chinamen slumber in mid-night darkness, so there are both children of the Day and children of the night in the world today.  Some men walk in darkness while other men walk in light.  Some men abide in darkness while other men abide in light. 

            The Day of the Lord neither begins nor ends.  It simply IS.  God has never known anything but the Day that He is.  It begins for us at that blessed moment when, quickened by the Spirit of God, we consciously step into it, just as the natural day begins for us when we arise and greet the dawn.  The fact is, it has been day somewhere on earth all the while the veil of darkness hung over you as a shroud.  Day has nothing to do with time.  It has nothing to do with dates.  It has nothing to do with the calendar.  It has nothing to do with the ages.  It only has to do with your relationship to it.  If someone asks when the Day of the Lord begins I cannot answer.  The Day of the Lord IS.  In like manner, the Kingdom of God IS.  “The Kingdom of God IS within you.”  “The Kingdom of God IS righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”  “The Kingdom of Heaven IS like unto...”  It is not a matter of “when” at all.  Jesus always taught about what the Kingdom is, never about when it is.  The disciples and the Pharisees were always asking when, and never once did Jesus answer them.  Yet, almost all Christians in the church systems today are talking about when the Kingdom of God is going to come, and show very little interest, if any, in what the Kingdom is.   

            May the blessed Spirit of truth give all who read these lines eyes to see that the Kingdom of God does not come by observation.  It is not something you can see with your physical eye.  The Pharisees looked on Jesus and said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?  Was His father not a carpenter?”  They didn’t see the Kingdom of God.  Yet Jesus standing before them was the very personification and embodiment of the Kingdom.  But they couldn’t see it.  They knew Him not.  They knew not the day of their visitation.  Only when the Father revealed Him did any man know the King of the Kingdom.  Jesus said that in order for a man to see the Kingdom of God he must be born from above.  Some people think that Great Britain and America are the Kingdom of God.  My friend, you are deceived.  If Great Britain and America are the Kingdom of God then any harlot, thief, murderer, liar, drunkard, or any sinner can see the Kingdom.  Any member of Adam’s race can see it.  Any child born of the flesh can see it.  Any carnal minded church member can see it.  If Great Britain and America are the Kingdom of God then it  also can be entered by natural birth.  All who have been born  of the correct genetic and genealogical heritage are automatically citizens of the Kingdom by physical birth.  If the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples constitute the Kingdom of God Jesus lied and is a deceiver of the first magnitude.   

            Furthermore, if Jesus must return to planet earth in a visible, physical form and sit on a great throne in Jerusalem, Israel or in London, England then the Kingdom of God does come by observation and you can say, “Lo here! or, lo there! because the Kingdom of God is in London.”  The whole church world is looking for Jesus to ride out of the skies on a white steed with a sword coming out of His mouth to smite the nations.  His feet will land on the mount of Olives and the mountain will split asunder.  He will fight in the valley of Megiddo and defeat all His enemies; then He will set up His Kingdom in Jerusalem and rule over the Jews and the whole earth.  But you see, precious friend of mine, there is something dreadfully wrong with this scenario.  The Kingdom of God comes not with observation.  Hear it!  The Kingdom does not come with outward show.  It doesn’t come by sudden apocalyptic events that shake the earth and startle the nations.  I tell you the truth it doesn’t come that way.  It never has.  It never will.  There is no abrupt butting into a wall of time when suddenly everything will be changed by climatic outward events.  That is not how the Kingdom comes.  I have this on the authority of the King.  But that is what the religious crowd thought then, and that is what the religious crowd still thinks today.  The Kingdom is not coming, it’s at hand today. 

            That is precisely what Jesus taught.  That’s the problem with religion, they think that the Kingdom of God is someplace else or at another time.  They cannot believe that the Kingdom is happening right now.  But that is the reality of the Kingdom.  It is true of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.  It shall yet break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms  and shall rule over all and stand forever.  But right now the Kingdom of God IS WITHIN YOU.  And right now the Kingdom of God IS AT HAND.  And right now men can both see the Kingdom and enter the Kingdom by being born again, born from above, as the Greek puts it, birthed out of a higher dimension the realm of the spirit.  You will never know or partake of the glories of the Kingdom until there is a quickening, an enlightenment that takes place within your consciousness on a spiritual level.   

            Some people think that the Kingdom of God has been held in abeyance, it has been held up in heaven somewhere, until Jesus comes back and establishes it in the earth.  Why, my beloved friend, you are just about two thousand years behind time.  Don’t you know Jesus already came and established the Kingdom in the earth?  “Now after that John was put into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the good news” (Mk. 1:14-15).  “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man is pressing into it” (Lk. 16:16).  You say, “Well, we’re waiting for Jesus to come back and make the Kingdom take over.”  Well, my beloved, He has to come back in you in His fullness to make it take over!  “...that you may be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven...when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe in that day” (II Thes. 1:5-10).  That’s how it’s going to take over.  There will be no other take over of the Kingdom of God except it comes in and through you who are hearing the Word of the Kingdom, who are entering into the Kingdom of God. 

            The Kingdom comes not with observation, neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.  These are the profoundest of words.  These words define for us in the grandest way the nature of the Kingdom and the truth about its location.  A number of times in my life I have encountered people who were all enthused about great meetings or crusades or revivals that were happening in certain places, and they encouraged me to attend.  They told me, “That is where God is working.  That is where the action is.”  They may as well have said, “That’s where the Kingdom of God is in evidence.”  This is an hour when God’s little children are running to and fro, seeking signs and wonders.  When men and women are saying to one another, “Have you heard evangelist...?  Have you heard prophet...?  Have you seen what God is doing through brother...?   

            They run from city to city, from crusade to crusade, from seminar to seminar, from meeting to meeting, seeking to see a miracle or hear some new thing.  While it is good to “go and see” if we are seeking something from God, this mad rush from “here” to “there” is a sign that we have not yet discovered the reality and power of the Kingdom of God within.  We still believe that if we can run fast enough, travel far enough, see enough miracles, hear enough preachers, healers, and teachers, we will get “healed,” get “faith,” get “peace,” get “power,” get “victory,” become “like Christ,” or get whatever it is we lack within ourselves.  That is what the Pharisees were trying to do.  I have gone on occasion to the meetings where the Kingdom of God was supposed in manifestation in power.  There was action there all right.  It seemed as though some were being healed of sicknesses, and demons were being cast out, and there was a large crowd of people there and great excitement.  But it was difficult to tell where the showmanship ended and the power of God began.  There was a fine line between what some of the people may have been receiving out of their own great expectation in faith, and how much of what was going on was the result of crowd manipulation and mass psychology.  There was a great stage show put on by professional musicians and a speaker dripping with charisma who held the audience spellbound.  The people seemed quite sure that it was the very power of God.   

            Men chase back and forth to these spectacular events seeking signs to strengthen their faith, to re-charge their weak characters, to liven their jaded spiritual appetites, because of their refusal to seek these things in the only place where they can be found “behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”  The Kingdom of God is not localized, either in a single person or place.  There is no need to purchase an airline ticket for the next great healing and miracle crusade, or to Canada to witness the so-called “holy laughter,” or to Florida to see the “Brownsville Revival,” or to some other state to become part of a group and their preacher who claim they alone have the message of the hour, and if you want to come into sonship and escape death into immortality you must be joined unto them for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within YOU!  The God of miracles and power and eternal life and victory is closer to you than the very air you breathe, closer even than the blood coursing through your veins.  He is nigh you, even in your mouth and in your heart.  He is there where you are today, in the midst of all your pressures and testings.  He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.  The God of the Kingdom lives within your own spirit and can do more for you today right where you are than all the great claims and grand events “here” and “there.” 

            Well has a dear brother written: “Jesus said we, like the Pharisees, are seeking in the wrong place.  We are seeking the kingdom, the faith, the power, from without, at the hand of some man.  But the kingdom is not outside it is ‘within you.’  ‘But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly’ (Mat. 6:6).  Of course there is a blessing that comes when saints get together to enjoy fellowship, prayer, singing, and anointed preaching of the Word.  But the real, lasting strength of God that sustains us day by day, comes not from these periodic ‘feasts,’ but from the steady diet of daily secret prayer, praise, and feeding on the bread of life.  Jesus was right when He said, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink’ (Jn. 7:37).  And He was correct when He instructed the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, ‘But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up (from within) into everlasting life’ (Jn. 4:14).  And He did not miss the mark when He told the multitude, ‘I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger and he that believeth on me shall never thirst’ (Jn. 6:35). 

            “When the disciples walked the shores of Galilee with Jesus, they looked to Him for their strength, their faith, their inspiration.  When He was not with them, they were inadequate to meet the needs that arose.  When He was asleep on the boat, they were terrified by the storm and came running to Him for help.  When Jesus was on the mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John, the other disciples at the foot of the mountain were helpless before a devil-possessed boy (Mat. 17:14-21).  But, before Jesus left the earth, He reassured His disciples that He would send another Comforter to take His place.  And this other Comforter would not be, like Jesus, ‘with them,’ but ‘within them’ inside them.  This other Comforter was truly Jesus Himself returning to them as the Indwelling Spirit. ‘And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever: even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you (as Jesus), and shall be in you (as the Holy Spirit)’ (Jn. 14:16-17).  Thereafter, their courage, guidance, victory, power and growth were not to come to them from without, but from within; not from someone else, but from the Holy Spirit  which dwelt within their own body-temples. 

            “Why all this running to and fro?  This is a restless, surface-thinking age.  We are accustomed to having everything done up in packages and handed to us, with little effort on our part.  No longer do we go into the restaurant and wait for the waiter to take and prepare our order.  We pull through the drive-up, roll down the window and expect a nice looking girl to shove the food out the window to us.  No longer do we spend hours in a hot kitchen, mixing, broiling, baking; we simply pick up a few fast-foods on the way home from work and have an instant meal.  In our spiritual lives, no longer do we feel the necessity of spending hours on our knees, or faithful trysts with the Word of God.  We run over to a church service and expect to take home a week’s supply of spiritual nourishment, all done up in a neat package, at a bargain price.  But Jesus, unlike our modern streamlined civilization, does not promise any ready-made, ready-mixed, pre-cooked, and quick-rising Bread of Life.  He still says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’  ‘And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall seek for me with all of your heart..’  ‘Wait on the Lord, be of good courage and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.’ 

            “When we run to and fro seeking blessing, inspiration, strength and faith from another, we are really trying to sponge off someone else’s prayer, ride on someone else’s ticket.  For had he not spent hours on his knees with the Father, had he not fasted and prayed and paid the price, he would have nothing worthwhile for us when we came.  We are trying to ride into the Kingdom on his coattails.  Children may get by with that, but that will never bring you to sonship!  You may get into the church that way, but it will never usher you into the Kingdom!” 

            THE KINGDOM LITERAL OR SPIRITUAL? 

            Carl Schwing once wrote: “How little we have known in the past of the Kingdom of God.  About all we knew was how to spell it and argue over it and naturalize it.  But now the Spirit of understanding is being poured out upon us and we are beginning to look into the Open Kingdom...no longer hidden in the shadows of types and figures, rather, brought into the sphere of reality.  The Kingdom of God is the very mind and heart of the Everlasting Father.  It is the center of all things.  And wonder of wonders, it is in you and in me, by brother-sister-sons!” 

            Many Bible teachers speak of a “Spiritual Kingdom of God” and a “Literal Kingdom of God.”  These are both carnal, man-made terms and are entirely extra-biblical and unscriptural.  Nowhere do the scriptures speak of a “Spiritual” Kingdom as contrasted with a “Literal” Kingdom.  God does not have TWO Kingdoms.  He has only ONE.  That ONE KINGDOM is, however, both Spiritual and Literal.  It is a spiritual rule of God wrought by the Spirit of God in the lives of literal people, in literal places and affecting very literal circumstances.  Man, as well as the whole earth, is now literally impacted by the rule of God in and through His chosen ones.  And the nations and rulers of earth shall yet in a total sense become affected literally by God’s Kingdom-dominion in the earth.   

            But carnal religious tradition has falsely interpreted the Kingdom of God in its present reality during this age as a “Spiritual Kingdom,” and the Kingdom of God in its future reality during  the “Millennium” as a “Literal Kingdom.”  This notion arises from a misunderstanding or lack of understanding of the meaning of words.  According to Webster “literal” means “real not figurative or metaphorical.”  That which is literal is simply something real.  I submit to you that GOD IS REAL.  Now, God is not physical, material or tangible, but He is very, very real!  God is neither figurative nor metaphorical.  In like manner, SPIRIT IS REAL.  Spirit is not physical, material or tangible, but Spirit is very, very real!  Spirit is neither figurative nor metaphorical.  When the Spirit of God moves or comes upon a person tremendous things happen.  Like the wind, you know not whence it cometh or whither it goeth, but you hear the sound thereof and you see the mighty effect of its power.  Spiritual things are, in fact, the MOST REAL of all realities in the universe for they are unchangeable and eternal, whereas earthly things are temporal and passing.  So to say that the Kingdom of God is at one time “spiritual” and at another time “literal” is a confusion of terms.  The contrast should not be between literal and spiritual but between natural and spiritual.  The Kingdom is not natural or earthly but is at all times and in all stages both spiritual and literal.  It is only literal because it is spiritual!   The Kingdom is never figurative or metaphorical.  It is real  very, very, real!  The great truth is that the Kingdom of God has never been any more or any less spiritual than it is RIGHT NOW!  And it shall never in the future be any more or any less spiritual than it now is.  By the same token, the Kingdom has never been any more or any less literal than it is right now, and it shall never in the future be any more or any less literal than it now is!   

            The Kingdom of God is concerned with eternal and spiritual realities.  God’s Kingdom is spiritual in its essence and in its operation.  In comparison with the economy of Moses the Kingdom is inward instead of outward.  Some would like to establish the Kingdom along Old Testament lines so as to re-assert the outward political, judicial and legislative and to smother the inward and spiritual.  A number of our Anglo-Israel friends, strangely fascinated by an Old Testament economy that has forever passed away, have a great deal to say about the Israel nations coming under the laws of Moses during the Millennium, but precious little about the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  But in an age when the Kingdom has come with power, and been unveiled in the hearts of God’s elect, this hankering after the Old Covenant is an outmoded and discredited concept.  It is not unlike the case of the children of Israel in the wilderness who preferred their Egyptian existence to the new level of blessing to which God had brought them. 

            Thousands of years ago God made a covenant with Abraham.  “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great...for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.  And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.  Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” (Gen. 12:1-2; 13:15-17).  We see at once that the great feature of this covenant is a multiplicity of seed for a man that hitherto had been childless; and that this multitude of people is to become a great nation, and that they were to be given the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession.  The covenant specifically deeds a PIECE OF NATURAL REAL ESTATE TO THE PHYSICAL OFFSPRING OF AN EARTHLY MAN! 

            While there are many beautiful spiritual types in Israel’s entrance into and possession of the promised land, the fact remains that throughout the Old Testament one reads the history of a physical people receiving natural blessings in an earthly land.  In the Old Testament the Lord always referred to an earthly land.  You can recall how many times from the twelfth chapter of Genesis to the end of Malachi the Lord stressed the land again and again.  The land...the land...the land I promised to thy fathers; the land I promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the land I  promised  you; I will bring you into the land; I will give you the land; I will bless you in the land.  It was the land, the land, always the LAND! 

            The center of the Old Testament economy is the temple within the city within the land.  The temple was a natural temple within a material city built upon the physical land.  You read how God brought His people into the promised land, and His people remained there and enjoyed all its riches, a land “flowing with milk and honey.”  They ate and drank from the land all their living came out of the land, the land was everything to them.  But the blessings of this land were mere temporal blessings lavishly bestowed upon a fleshly and mortal people.  Notice the kinds of blessings promised!  “But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven...and it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day...that I will give you the rain of your land in his due season...that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.  And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.  Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.  Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.  Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.  The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and He shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Deut. 11:11, 13-15; 28:3-5, 8). 

            The Old Covenant was a carnal covenant made with an unregenerated race of earthly men.  This covenant, we are informed, “had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary...which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect...which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them UNTIL THE TIME OF REFORMATION” (Heb. 9:1, 9-10). 

            There is a wonderful order which God has established relative to creation, the progression of truth, and the unfolding of His purposes in the earth, and it is this: “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (I Cor. 15:46).  The principle is evident everywhere in the scriptures.  First the old creation, then the new.  First darkness, then light.  First Abram, the natural man, and his seed, the fleshly Israel, and their inheritance, the earthly land of Canaan; then Abraham, the spiritual man, and his seed, the enChristed, and their inheritance, all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  First Adam, formed of the dust of the ground, a living soul; then the second man, the last Adam, the Lord from heaven, a quickening spirit.  First the law of Moses, then the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  First the manna in the wilderness sustaining physical life, then the true bread come down from heaven that if a man eat of it he shall never die.  First the water refreshing the land of Canaan, then the water Christ gives which is a well of water springing up unto eternal life.  First the temple of stones from Solomon’s mines, then the temple of living stones, a spiritual house, the habitation of God through the spirit.  First the lamb from among a man’s flock, offered in sacrifice, then the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and the spiritual sacrifices offered unto God by Him.  First the natural body, then the spiritual body.  And the wonder of it all is this that the end of the Old is the beginning of the New; and out of that which forever passes away there comes forth that which is eternal and destined to remain.  It is imperative, therefore, that we should always observe that which is first, that from it we may discern that which follows the spiritual, the heavenly, the incorruptible, the TRUE which the first typifies. 

            If we know the scriptures and have light from God, we will realize what is meant by “the land.”  The land is but a figure of Christ as our all in all.  In the Old Testament the descendants of Abraham were brought into the land; in the New Covenant those born of the Spirit are brought into Christ.  Have you ever realized that Christ is now the territory of your life?  Christ is the land!  You may feel that day to day you are living on this earth, compassed about, hedged in, and shut up by the myriad problems, pressures, and frustrations of THIS WORLD.  But you must realize that this earth, nor any part of it, including the land of Israel, Great Britain, America, or any other place, is not your real land, this world is not the sphere of your living.  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.  For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God  (Col. 3:1-3).  The land is but a type of Christ as everything to us.  By virtue of the new birth we now have the ground to enjoy all the riches of God in Christ!  God gave us this ground.  This ground is our land and we may enter in and fully possess all its glories by faith. 

            I deeply feel that most of the Lord’s people are still living in the old land the “shadow” and have discovered but little of the true land, the substance of which is Christ.  What a vast difference there is between the shadow of an object and the object itself!  Shadows can be beautiful, as when, for instance, a day draws toward late afternoon and the mountains cast long shadows, transformed into purple, greatly enhancing the scene.  But the shadows are at best only shadows, creating wonderful illusions, but with no substance to them.  It is my conviction after forty-five years of ministry that multitudes of Christians are today contenting themselves with the shadow instead of the substance.  I think we can look upon the shadow and the substance as picturing two sorts of lives lived by God’s people.  There is a life, if we can indeed call it such, which is just a shadow of the real thing; things spiritual are not real to the one living it; the whole thing reeks of the scent of the “earthiness” of the old natural land.  These folk, though religious, church going people, may even sing choruses, clap their hands, speak in tongues and prophesy, but in most aspects of their daily lives MIND EARTHLY THINGS.  They preach a lot of frothy discourses concerning the abundant life, but the abundant life of which they speak is not the abundant life of Christ Himself, but mere external blessings of answered prayers, healing, health, jobs, houses, bank accounts, automobiles, clothes, and a thousand other earthly things which they imagine  represent the “abundant life”.  It is not the abundant life of “those who dwell in heaven” but “those who dwell upon the earth.” 

            Ah, dear ones, the best of all this world has to offer the best jobs, the highest salaries, the finest homes, the choicest automobiles, beautiful clothes, good and luxurious furniture and an abundance of the amenities of life have nothing whatever to do with the abundant life of which Jesus spoke when He said, “I am come that ye might have life, and have it more abundantly.”  The abundant life is experienced in CHRIST THE SUBSTANCE, not in the shadow.  A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth, saith the Lord.  If God has favored you with temporal things, then you may accept them, but do not deceive yourself by supposing that these temporal things are a sign of God’s favor or your spirituality, for such is not the case.  The fleshly Israel of old enjoyed all these earthly things for which men seek, but they did not have the abundant life Jesus came to bring. 

            Hear now the exhortation of the firstborn Son of God.  “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.  The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.  But rather SEEK YE THE KINGDOM OF GOD; fear not, little flock; for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom...provide yourselves with bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens (the realm of the spirit) that faileth not...for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  The national Israel with its promises of physical blessings is but the shadow Christ is the substance.  Yet many Christians choose to live in the earthlies in place of the heavenlies! 

            Only the Holy Spirit can make this real to us, but one of the most significant utterances ever made by the apostle Paul is found in Ephesians 1:3.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS IN HEAVENLY PLACES IN CHRIST.”  The source of all blessing is God who is Spirit.  “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).  All blessings, temporal and spiritual, come from the gracious hand of our heavenly Father.  However, the blessings and benefits of the Kingdom of God are not primarily temporal, physical, or natural blessings for the outer-earth-man.  They are not creature comforts.  They are spiritual blessings bestowed upon the inner-new-creation-man.  These spiritual blessings are received and experienced only “in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  They are in Him and are communicated from the high and holy realm in which He dwells.  These are the blessings of the life of sonship, and when you have appropriated all the blessing of this new and heavenly land which is Christ, you will be a manifested son of God.  That is the richness of this land!  This glorious land is the realm of incorruption which lies beyond the power of temptation, sin, limitation, sickness, sorrow and death.  It is filled with blessings which God has covenanted with all who dwell in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, blessings of wisdom and knowledge, of joy and peace, of love and faith, of grace and glory, of righteousness and power, of the mind of Christ and the image of God.  The mark of a son is when he asks most often for spiritual blessings instead of temporal blessings.  One will know that he is no longer numbered among the lusty throng who “dwell upon the earth” when, in all his seeking, he seeks only and always those things which are “above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God.” 

            “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews” (Jn. 18:36).  “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).   “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50). 

            The Kingdom of God is not local, national, or international.  It is not physical or temporal.  It is spiritual, universal, and eternal.  Jesus said that His Kingdom is not of this world, but it is to function in the world.  To the woman at the well He imparted the deep and wonderful knowledge that neither mount Gerizim  nor Jerusalem play any role in the Kingdom of God, for God is not to be worshipped in either of those places nor in any other physical locality.  Those who now worship the Father must worship Him in spirit and in truth.  Just as earthly kings rule in temporal and material realms, so God, the King of His Kingdom, rules in the realm of the spiritual and eternal.  The spiritual and eternal transcend this world, though they may be known, entered and experienced in this world.  That which is physical and temporal must eventually pass away; that which is spiritual and eternal will abide forever.   

            Since the spiritual and eternal are higher and more abiding, it follows that the temporal and material are ultimately to be ruled and guided by them.  There should be no conflict between the two, for just as soul and body are subjected to the spirit in the perfect man, so the natural creation is to be ruled by the spiritual that God’s Kingdom may come and God’s will be done in earth as it is in heaven.  Temporal affairs should always be permeated, shaped and controlled by spiritual powers.  That very principle is what makes us the sons of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.  Our outer man expresses the inner man of righteousness, joy, and peace, revealing the glory of Christ unto creation.  The whole ministry of Jesus was filled to the full with teaching concerning great Kingdom principles.  He did not concern Himself with petty rules and regulations governing the outer, every day life of the people.  He laid down great abiding spiritual principles that worked from the inside out.  If men grasped the principles by which their lives were to be guided, their every day conduct would take care of itself.  These principles are the New Testament written not upon stone, but upon the fleshy tablets of the heart by the Holy Spirit. 

            I cannot emphasize too strongly that the Kingdom of God is neither temporal nor material.  If it were temporal, it would have needed to be changed from time to time.  All the temporal kingdoms of the world have been almost revolutionized within the last sixty years.  Things temporal must be changed to suit the changing ages.  Things that are spiritual remain permanent throughout the centuries and aeons of existence.  Temporal kingdoms must be visible, exercise force, collect taxes, legislate laws, punish offenders, and maintain armies.  The spiritual Kingdom by its very nature can do none of these things, since its operations are only in the realm of the spiritual and eternal.  Can we not see by this that, since the Kingdom is spiritual in its nature, only those who have been transformed by the washing of regeneration can ever hope to enter.  But because the Kingdom is spiritual in nature, we must not assume that it has nothing to do with man’s social, political, and economic relationships.  That is a fallacy into which it is easy to fall.  There would be no reason for a Kingdom of God at all, if it is to be entirely divorced from practical life.  This is the greatest value of the Kingdom.  While not being temporal in nature, it enters definitely into the lives of people and directs them in the paths of righteousness and blessing in all their human relationships.  Just as the Kingdom of God in a man’s life will make him an honest, loving, caring, just and wise man in his home and business, so the Kingdom of God in the lives of the rulers of nations will make their governments honest, loving, caring, just and full of wisdom on behalf of their people.  That in no way makes their governments the Kingdom of God, but their governments are brought under the sway, influence, guidance and power of the Kingdom.  In just this way the Kingdom of God must come to our homes, to our schools, to our churches, to our businesses, to our charities, to our governments from the top to the bottom.  The inner must rule the outer, but the outer can never be the inner.  “For, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you.” 

            The Kingdom of God is spiritual, a spiritual dimension presently available to men upon this earth.  You will need a measure of God’s Spirit to see God’s Kingdom.  Christ is that measure.  Since the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, it is obvious the Spirit of Christ is needed to see or  discern the Kingdom.  Is it possible to be filled with heavenly joy today in the midst of earth’s sorrows?  Yes, it is!  Is it possible to receive the peace of God today in the face of the myriad conflicts and pressures of this world?  Certainly it is!  Is it possible to walk in the righteousness of God in the world right now?  Absolutely!  If this is all possible then it is possible for you to enter into the Kingdom of God today in this present world.  The Kingdom of God is a spiritual dimension that we can walk in, live in, and abide in while on the earth today.  As you walk in the Spirit, you are walking in the power of the Kingdom of Heaven.  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:17).  As we let the Holy Spirit rule us, what other son could we be?  If we are the sons of God, what other Kingdom could we be living in than God’s Kingdom? 

            We are called to manifest the will of God through our life.  When the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven, the Kingdom of God has come.  As sons of God we want to heal, bless, create, and bring life because the life-giver is within us.  We are the sons of the Kingdom.  We are the expression of the Lord’s will.  Christ the King is in us, ruling through us.  He has given us His peace so that we can impart peace to others.  He has given us His joy so that we can impart joy to others.  He has given us His love so that we can manifest love to the world.  The sons of the Kingdom have no fear.  They trust and fear God only, so they walk in peace, they walk in meekness, they walk in love, they walk in His likeness.  When we allow the Christ to rule us, reign through us, work through us, there will be a manifestation of God’s Kingdom through us to the world.  The world will become influenced by, and subjected to, the Kingdom of God. 

            The Kingdom of God is not a place to which we can go.  The Kingdom of God does not comprise “saved” flesh and blood, forgiven and justified natural, mortal men.  The Kingdom of God comprises new creatures, creatures which are of the substance of eternal life.  The Kingdom is within you as your inner man.  The outer man is perishing, but the inward man is renewed day by day.  Only as we pass from being flesh and blood descendants of Adam, to being life-giving spirits descended from our heavenly Father, do we enter the reality of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom is not a theological stance, a creed, a doctrine, a message, or a movement.  The Kingdom of God is the germinating, growing, developing and coming to maturity of the Divine Seed planted in the earth of every man, now quickened by the Spirit of God.  It is the raising up of the life and substance of God within us.  When the seed grows to maturity there exists a great tree of life from which all the creation of God can draw nourishment, healing and restoration.   

            Many people still conceive of the Kingdom of God as some kind of outward, structured government with Jesus sitting on a throne somewhere in the world and all the sons of God sitting on thrones with Him.  The Kingdom of God, however, is not established or fashioned by any external rule, but by the inward life and experience of Christ.  It is the body of men redeemed by Christ and transformed into the image of God.  Matters not whether it is the Kingdom in its present limited scope, or the Kingdom in its final consummation when every knee has bowed and every tongue confessed and all men of all ages have been gathered together into one in Christ and God is all in all (Eph. 1:10).  It is the same.  Nothing about the Kingdom changes.  The Kingdom is within and only comes as Christ is raised up in men’s lives by the Spirit. 

            Suppose we should say, “Let us make a man in the image of such and such a person.”  Now we cannot make a living man by any external method, so we make an arm out of wax, a head out of marble, a torso with wood, and the legs and feet of some clay.  Once these are assembled in the exact size and shape and painted in the exact color, we may have the true image of that man, but we do not have the reality of the man.  The real man is not manufactured by outward manipulation, but born and nurtured by the growth of life.  This true man was first conceived of a living seed, born of a living mother, and then grew by the nourishment of life.  Ultimately he became a man with a certain image, perhaps the image of his father.  If manufactured, there may be the image, but not a man. 

            You see, there are two ways of making things in this world.  Many things are made by the works of men’s hands.  Other things are made by the power of life.  Let us look closely at this.  You may make a table, an automobile, a beautiful painting, or a masterful statue; you may build a house or raise up a skyscraper.  No matter how many things you are skilled enough to make, all have one thing in common: they have no life.  They may be very beautiful and extremely valuable, but not one of them is living.  Whatever form they have, whatever resemblance to any other object, animate or inanimate, they are just things.  The power of life can in no way be developed from without by the work of men’s hands. 

            On the other hand, if you have a beautiful little child, you don’t pay much attention to his image.  You don’t make a form to fit over his body as he grows and try to shape him day by day in a particular way.  You don’t use a chisel and work at fashioning his countenance with a certain appearance of nobility.  The work of the hands avails nothing.  First, he is conceived of life and born of his mother, then you nourish him with milk and good food.  The child then grows and grows, assuming a certain shape and image.  The ultimate image was already in the life when he was conceived.  The image comes out of his birth and growth of life.  Just as you could not form your child, so neither can you form the Kingdom of God.  If we try to form it, all we have is an image without life.  Bring back the laws of Moses, bring back Jesus with a sword coming out of His mouth, and let Him try to enforce His Kingdom on men with might from without, and men will be forced to obey, but their hearts will be unchanged.  It will be an image without life. 

            We can manufacture a toy or a doll, but there is no way for us to manufacture a man.  We can manufacture silk or paper flowers, but there is no way for us to manufacture a rose.  It must be something of new birth in the spirit and growth of life in Christ.  Just as the church is composed of people, so the Kingdom of God is made up of people.  Jesus called these “the sons of the Kingdom” (Mat. 13:36-38).  No king on a physical throne enforcing external laws can bring forth one single child of the Kingdom.  “Except a man be born again, he cannot see...enter the Kingdom of God.”  That was true in Jesus’ day.  It is still true today.  It will be just as true during the “Millennium” or any age or ages yet to come.  It will be true in that glorious day when all things everywhere are gathered into Christ and all kindreds and tongues and nations and dominions serve Him.  All the external miracles, all the outward blessings, all the lovely manifestations of the Spirit, even if put there by Christ Himself, do not change the heart.  Jesus fed the five thousand by a miracle of miracles, and the people walked away from Him.  The Kingdom will not come through any external pressure or power, but only by the inward regeneration and actual transformation of each and every man into the image of God by the indwelling spirit of life.  Ah, yes!  “The Kingdom of God is within you.” 

            The sons of the Kingdom are the only true men on the face of the earth.  The sons of the Kingdom have put on the mind of Christ and understand the true nature of all things.  They are filled with heavenly wisdom and are strengthened by divine power.  They are created in the image of God and reveal the glory of Jesus Christ.  They have the ability to rise into the plane of the spirit.  He who has in him the Kingdom of God and from this Kingdom looks down upon the kingdom of the world is moved by compassion and is ready to stand in his place in the hour of the manifestation of the sons of God.  The hour is at hand.  Blessed be HIS glorious name!

            To be continued...                                                                              J. PRESTON EBY

                                                        

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